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Bliss Was It . . .

by John Derbyshire

The High Tide of American Conservatism: Davis, Coolidge, and the 1924 Election, by Garland S. Tucker III (Emerald, 336 pp., $29.95)

The 1924 presidential election was, on the face of it, a snoozer. The major-party candidates were Calvin Coolidge (Republican) and John W. Davis (Democrat). Both were conservative — sensationally so by today’s standards. As Garland Tucker notes in this enjoyable and informative book: “There were . . . very few philosophical differences between Davis and Coolidge.” Both men thought that federal power should intrude as little as possible into the life of the nation. Both favored minimal taxation, wanted the states left to conduct their own affairs where the Constitution did not forbid their doing so, saw America’s international role in terms of diplomatic sweet nothings, and believed that “to tax one person, class or section to provide revenue for another is . . . robbery” (Davis) and that “the chief business of the American people is business” (Coolidge).

(Let us pause for a moment to reflect on the fact that 1924 is still, just barely, within living memory. There are citizens walking our streets today who were alive and sentient when the presidency was contested by two rock-ribbed conservatives. Reflect, and weep.)

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